Reasons of increasing Palk Bay fishing conflict

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Synopsis: The recent death of 4 fishermen resurfaces the unresolved issue of fisheries conflict between India-Sri Lanka at Palk Bay.


  • Recently four fishermen from Tamil Nadu died while fishing in Palk Bay.
  • Tamil Nadu has accused Sri Lankan Navy of that. But, the Sri Lankan navy maintains that they died when their trawler collided with a naval vessel while trying to avoid arrest.
  • The timing of the incident signifies the sensitivity of this issue. As recently, after a three-year gap, India-Sri Lanka have resumed their discussion on fisheries through a Joint working Group (JWG).
  • In JWG, India demanded the early release of fishermen and the boats in Sri Lankan custody. On the other hand, Sri Lanka demanded to curb illegal fishing by Indian fishermen, which has adversely affected the livelihood of its fishermen.
  • India has registered its strong protest against these deaths.

Why the conflict has not been resolved yet?

There are many reasons for the continuance of the conflict. They are,

  • Failure in implementing joint working group resolutions : Earlier both the sides agreed for  no violence or loss of life while handling the fishermen. A hotline was established between the respective Coast Guards for that.  However, the proposed hotline has not been operationalized yet.
  • Alternate solutions failed: The plan to replace Tamil Nadu fishermen trawlers with deep sea fishing vessels has not been successful.
  • Failure of Direct talks: Attempts to negotiate a settlement through direct talks between fishermen from both sides have also failed.
  • Inability to find a common ground: Sri Lanka favors an immediate ban on unsustainable fishing practices such as bottom trawling.  While Tamil Nadu fishermen want a lengthy phase-out period for the same.
  • Insensitivity of Tamil Nadu Political leaders. Political leaders in Tamil Nadu fail to acknowledge that incursion into Sri Lankan waters by  the State’s fishermen contribute immensely to the problem.

A comprehensive solution to end this conflict is to ban unauthorized fishing. It should be followed by the facilitation of sustainable use of resources by fishermen from both sides

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